Singing by candlelight:
We were to sing one evening in Saratoga Springs, NY. Just before the service a strong storm came through and knocked the electricity out at the gymnasium where the church was meeting. Of course with no electricity we had no sound system, no soundtracks, no lights, and no a/c. One man had a portable CD player in his car which we planned to use to sing by, but it would not work for some reason. A good crowd had showed up and we were all looking forward to the service. After a long delay we finally decided that we would do our first ever acapello concert. Some of the men set several candles on the communion table, and then set the table in front of us. The Lord blessed the service and nearly everyone responded to the invitation at the end of the concert. Praise the Lord!
The face of death:
In Oklahoma one Wednesday we were driving westbound to a church to sing for that evening when we passed a pick up truck in the eastbound lane that had no driver! As we looked back we saw the truck veer off the road and into a ditch, then out of the ditch, then into a pond. We turned around and dad and I jumped out to see what had happened. By that time the pick up truck had already begun sinking down in the pond. A young man who had witnessed the same jumped into the pond and in a few minutes came out of the submerged truck with a body. He swam ashore with the body and dad helped him drag it on shore. The young man began CPR but it was too late. We had a lesson that evening in the brevity of life.
People began jumping up and moving one evening when singing in Chattanooga, TN.
It turns out a small snake had gotten in the auditorium and was crawling under the feet of some member while we were singing!
At a church in north Arkansas they had a habit of sometimes leaving the front doors open to let the fresh mountain air in. I’ll never forget as our family sang that Sunday morning when a deer walked in the foyer! I watched as one of the men ushered it out! We came to find out that the deer was indeed tame and lived nearby. I guess the deer was panting for God as he did for water! Ps. 42:1.
Sanford and Son:
One morning on the way to church I entered the elevator at the hotel. I noticed there were two black men well dressed in when I stepped in. They were friendly and began talking with me. I didn’t recognize them. As soon as the doors opened a chauffeur driver called for Mr. Wilson and said his ride was ready. I then recognized him as Demond Wilson (Lamont) on the TV show Sanford and Son.
The Lord has blessed us to be able to sing in Germany for several American military churches. After mom’s death in 1990, dad and I decided it would be a good time to go and try and minister to the dear people there. One of the men at a church offered to take dad and I to Hitler’s eagles nest in Burtchesgarden. We decided to eat at a little restaurant downtown. The only other people in the restaurant were two men who sat opposite to us. They were, of course, drinking beer. Soon one of the men got up and walked over to our table. Neither of us 3 Americans could speak German nor understand it. The man was boisterous and loud and seemed to be angry. He leaned over the table and pointed at my chest. I feared he might be trying to start a fight. None of us knew what he was saying. The Christian man with us used the little German he knew to tell him that we would call the police. Then the restaurant manager stepped in and led the man away.
After church one night in Desoto, TX. we were eating when the waiter told me that there was a man sitting close by who wanted to know if I was a minister and if could he talk with me. The waiter pointed him out. The man was in his 50’s and well dressed. It made me nervous so I asked my friend, the singles director from the church nearby who was sitting next to me if he would handle this considering he could follow up if need be. (Good thinking huh?) No, said the waiter after my friend went to speak with him, he wanted to speak with me. So I went over and sat across from this man in his booth. The man introduced himself as a prophet and he said he had a word for me. I listened. He said that God had told him that if I didn’t circumcise my heart that the Lord would kill me. I responded by saying that I was under no condemnation of God according to Romans 8. He seemed irritated and said “Well, I am a prophet, and you’d better listen to me.” Then he said “How were you baptized?’ I said “By immersion in water” He said “No, I mean were you baptized in Jesus name only, or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?” I said “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” He said “That’s wrong.” I responded by saying, “Then why is it that when Jesus was baptized that the Trinity endorsed the baptism? The Father, the Holy Spirit and Son of God manifested themselves in that one baptism?” The man replied “Well, I am a prophet and you’d better listen to me!” and then got up and walked out of the restaurant.
Is your all on the altar?
Back in 1982 we were singing at Grace Baptist Church in Kilgore, TX. This is during the time that Jerry played the piano and I played bass guitar. We finished singing a song and I laid my bass down and proceeded down the steps to my seat when my foot got hung in a microphone cable and down I went, rolling down the steps. I crash landed on the altar bench. Amidst the chuckling pastor Beebe announced that he was happy that I was finally getting right with God.
Back in the 70’s Jerry played the bass guitar then I took over in the 80’s. One of the perils of setting up in numerous churches is that each church has a different electrical set up. This can be good or bad. Many a time we would step up to sing and touch our lips to the mic then get knocked back with an electrical shock!! Of course after this comical scene the song wasn’t very effective to the crowd!
In January 1994 we were in Nashville recording the project called “Special Grace” when a lot of sleet and snow fell and the temperatures plunged to -6 F. That’s 6 degrees below zero! Much of Nashville was in a blackout but the Lord kept the electricity on at Oak Valley Studios while we recorded. During a break sound engineer and owner Kevin McManus walked in chuckling. He said Garth Brooks’ agent had just called him wanting to book the studio. It turns out that he had an interview scheduled with David Frost but a good studio could not be found with electricity! Thankfully Kevin said no and we kept recording.
Asleep at the wheel:
About 1985 our bus broke down near Nashville, TN. We had to leave it to be repaired then we rented a van one way to go back home. A few weeks later we loaded up in our old “back up van” and headed to Ohio stopping through Nashville to pick up our bus. Jerry followed us in the van as we traveled on to Ohio. We sang Sunday morning at one church then headed for Moraine Heights Baptist in Centerville, OH. for the evening service. We arrived at the church in plenty of time but Jerry didn’t. Dad and I set up our equipment and waited, and waited but no Jerry. Just at service time he drove up looking disheveled and red-faced. It turns out that he fell asleep at the wheel of the van and went into a ditch and into a field! He lost a hub cap and there was some minor damage bit but was ok. Of course dad told him to hurry and get dressed and he played and sang that night.
In 1983 the temperature dropped to 8 degrees in Houston. I remember this because we were parked next to the Greenwood Village Baptist Church in our bus—and it froze! We got up that December morning to get ready for church but all the water had frozen on our bus. So dad went into the church with some gallon jugs and filled them up, then we heated the water on our bus’ gas stove for shaving and bathing.
The first bus:
In 1977 a friend of ours wanted to sell our family a road bus. In fact he said he would let us use the bus for the summer in order to try it out. It was one of the best toys I ever had as a kid. It belonged to the Imperials Quartet a few years before and had telephones in each bunk bed and was nicely decorated. We spent the summer touring in it. Dad enjoyed getting up early and hitting the road while everyone was still asleep. One morning when he hit the road we heard a loud thud/crashing sound. I walked to where the noise had come from, opened the bathroom door and there Jerry lay in his underwear and stack shoes. Nature had called but not at a good time!
In the 80’s we were singing in the Kentucky- Indiana area when we had unusual breakdown. We had sung that morning at Florence Baptist Temple in KY and were traveling that afternoon towards Indiana when our bus began to vibrate. Dad was driving and I was standing looking out the front windshield at the road. Dad said “What is that noise? “. I told him there had been construction on the road and it made the road bumpy.
Soon the vibrations got much worse and the bus started shaking. Then we realized it wasn’t the road! To our disbelief as we looked out of the windshield we saw a large truck type wheel speed pass us, cross the median of the interstate, and come near to hitting a compact car! It then continued on across the interstate, over a fence, then and down a small hill. Meanwhile the shaking got much worse and dad immediately pulled the bus to the side of the road and it fell over on its side. We all got out to assess the problem and found that the lugs of one of the back wheels of the bus had simply sheered off! The Lord kept the inner wheel from coming off or we would have had a terrible wreck. It was a hot summer day and dad told Jerry and I to go and retrieve the wheel we he tried to get help. Well, Jerry and I set off looking for the wheel and it took us quite a while to find it. It was at the bottom of a hill a half a mile away. The wheel weighed over 200 pounds but we managed to roll it back toward the bus and as far as the fence. At this point we had to get dad to help us and we all 3 heaved it over. Of course there was the danger it would start rolling again but the thankfully it didn’t. Dad was able to hitch a ride to a truck stop and hire a tow truck to pull us into a garage where we left the bus. Needless to say we did not make our Sunday evening engagement and instead spent the night nearby. The next day dad went to the shop to see to the bus repairs and found a note pinned to the bus door. It was from Pastor Wayne Cox who had seen the bus while driving past the truck stop and it said that if we needed any help please call him. Praise the Lord the Florence Baptist Temple paid the $1500.00 repair bill!
Mice in the bus:
I don’t know how it happened when our bus moved from place to place everyday, but somehow mice got into the bus. Jerry became obsessed with eliminating them and set several mouse traps throughout the bus. Before it was over the dead mouse tally was 17!
We sang at the Camden Baptist Temple in AR. in the 80’s, next to the church stood a radio station tower that had a strong signal. We set up our sound equipment to sing but the country hits were coming our so loud on our system that we wondered what we were going to do. We went out to the bus and got some electrical wire and tried to ground the sound system in a different location. This helped some but the music still came through. Finally we decided that Jerry would play nonstop throughout the entire concert while dad talked and we sang. This was working fine until a little girl got up to go the restroom and tripped on the ground wire. Out came the country hits once again! It was difficult to bring the service to an invitational point!
A little later on we were back at the same church on a stormy evening. As we sang sounds of thunder could be heard and it made the people a bit nervous. Wouldn’t you know that there was also a Civil Defense horn located near the church! Well, the horn sounded with a deafening volume just as we were coming down to the invitational song. While dad began pleading for folks to come down to the altar, folks got up and walked out! We finally just had to admit defeat!
Back in the bus days we parked in a lot of church parking lots and simply hooked into to their electrical outlets. Some of these weren’t too well grounded. We traveled back then with a little dachshund which we would let out on a rope when he needed to go out. On more than one occasion you would hear a loud yelping as he touched the bus with his nose and received an electrical shock. Poor dog!
In 1985 Word of Life youth ministries invited us to sing for an area wide meeting in Dallas, TX. They booked a hotel room for us at the Hyatt Regency downtown but Jerry opted to stay in the hotel parking lot alone in the bus to enjoy some privacy. The next morning he told us an interesting story. Next door to the bus and hotel was the Reunion Arena where that night the rock group Lover Boy performed. Late at night when the concert let out all of the people filed by the bus hollering, laughing and making all sorts of noise. This was unsettling enough for Jerry but soon several people began to light small fires next to the bus using beer bottles and paper! Jerry got little sleep that night.
Sibley Missionary Baptist Church in Louisiana holds special memories for us but Kenneth stands out the most. In the 70’s we held several meetings here and an older mentally handicapped man was always present. He brought life to the services and usually loved talking about the food that would be served after the services. One evening my sister Joy noticed he seemed to be eating M&M’s during the church service so afterwards she said something about it to one of the member. “No”, they said “That’s chewing tobacco!” Kenneth lived to be a very old man and we always looked forward to seeing him when we returned.
In the 80’s we sang at a small country church in Louisiana. That afternoon we had dinner on the grounds after which our family was to give a gospel concert. Most of the people went home after they finished eating but 25 or so remained for the afternoon service. The pastor announced that there would be a cemetery committee meeting first before the singing. The groundskeeper stood and requested that the church buy him a weed eater so that he could trim around the gravestones in the cemetery but another man stood and objected to this request. Well, an argument ensued that escalated to the point where the groundskeeper said “If you don’t buy me a weed eater, I am going to chunk those gravestones over the fence! At this several of the people exited. The pastor quickly tried to bring an end to the meeting, then said “Ok, folks now the Drewett’s will come up and sing.”
Bear on the run:
One of our first family trips was in the mountains of east TN. As we were traveling on day in our station wagon a black bear came barreling out of the woods and collided with our car! The bear slammed into the exact spot where Joy sat in the vehicle and made a large dent. Surprisingly the bear staggered a bit and then continued on into the woods across the road.
In the 80’s we sang in the northwest near in my mother’s home state at Kootnae County Baptist Church. Little did we know that pastor Bill Grady had been planning an elaborate joke for our family. It would be too lengthy to give all the details but this is what happened that day in August 1986. With the help of some of his members Pastor Grady cut the weeds away from an old dilapidated hotel on the shores of Lake Coeur D’Alene. He said that a man he knew had bought this hotel and was trying to revive it by making a commercial about it and that wanted to use our family in the commercial. Pastor Grady also explained that he had been witnessing to this man and wanted for us to go along with whatever was requested of us so that we all could see him come to Christ. So with this in mind we went as lambs to the slaughter. The cameras were on us throughout the charade and we still possess the video of that day. First we stepped over stinking fish heads as we entered the small boat to travel to the hotel by water. As we listened to Hawaiian music over the boat’s speakers, the “hotel owner” explained to us that he was a personal friend to President Marcos in the Philippines and talked to him regularly. Soon he killed the motor of the boat and paddled us through a culvert that went under Interstate Highway 90. When we came out on the other side we saw the “Maui Waui” hotel in all its glory,
rotting wood, broken glass and all. Pastor Grady requested that we humor this man by showing reverence to his religious beliefs, so as we stood on a wooden dock, we bowed our heads and listened to wild jungle music for several minutes. Then a man came out of nowhere wearing a bathing suit, screamed like a Cherokee Indian, and dove into the water near us coming up with a pearl. This he took and sat on a very small altar and knelt doing homage to it. Next, the hotel owner danced next to the lake shore with a lighted torch. He then drank diesel fuel and blew the fuel onto the torch causing long flames to proceed from his mouth. At one point during this dance he slips and falls into the water. This is followed by the hotel owner’s wife hula dancing for several minutes. Pastor Grady then makes the announcement that “Louie” will now be introduced and the song “Louie, Louie” begins to play loudly as a pig is brought out. Then he says that Louie will be our dinner for that evening and the pig is taken away and shots ring out! At this point the minds of our family were beyond discernment and we wouldn’t have been surprised at whatever happened next. My mother’s song “Passing Through” began playing loudly and Pastor Grady then said that indeed we were just passing through and we would not be staying at the Maui Waui hotel tonight or any other night but that the elaborate joke was complete!
Years ago dad and Sherri and I were singing in Texas and were staying at the church’s prophet’s chamber. The facilities were in bad need of remodeling and cleaning but we still slept pretty well. The next morning I decided to take a shower. The shower was kind of a gymnasium type, large, tile shower with 3 or 4 shower heads. I have poor eyesight without my glasses and as I began showering I noticed movement at my feet. As I bent over to get a closer look many large water bugs (the large flying type) came out of the shower drain. The water had flushed them out. One of the shower heads had a hose hooked to it so I grabbed it and began spraying the water bugs away from me and against the other wall. It seemed the more I sprayed the more came out of the drain until there were hundreds. Well, I managed to keep them at bay long enough to finish my shower and get out of the bathroom. Another day in the life of the evangelist.
Louisiana is known for its alligators. Years ago we were singing near the coast and I met a Christian man who was a game warden near the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. After we sang at his church that evening he asked if I would like to go with him on an alligator hunt. I told him I would love to. So the next morning we were up before dawn and in a boat headed for the hunting area. We finally hit some solid ground and then boarded a tractor to go further into the marsh area. It was no surprise that the mosquitoes were everywhere and I was thankful that I had sprayed repellent on before we had left. I found that alligator hunting is not really hunting. The game warden had set hooks here and there and we simply went from place to place checking these hooks. Well we stopped to check one hook and found a 10 footer on it. My friend allowed me to shoot the alligator in the head with a rifle and then he and his assistant drug the animal on shore. As we stood talking to each other with the dead alligator at our feet all of a sudden there was a loud hiss and then the tail swung almost hitting my friend’s legs. We all jumped back of course and then he told me he still had back pain from being swatted by a large gator years earlier. When we got back to the warden’s house, I found that mosquitoes had bitten through my clothes and I had hundreds of bites but I enjoyed the experience!
The Lord has blessed our family through the years to be able to stay busy singing in many churches and often on weeknights. Often we sang every night of the week at a different church except Monday and Saturday. Back in 1996 we were touring in Washington State and were scheduled to sing in Tacoma on Thursday and Port Angeles on Friday. When we arrived in Tacoma dad called the pastor to see about our accommodations for that night but the pastor had clean forgotten about scheduling us. Nevertheless, he apologized profusely, put us up at a nice hotel and even came to our hotel with a large love offering. We enjoyed the fellowship that evening and laughed about the whole thing. The very next evening we arrived at the church to set up our equipment and found no one there. We waited and waited and finally realized that no one was going to show up. We kept calling the pastor’s home but no one answered. Dad and I began asking at the houses closest to the church and located the youth director. It turned out that the pastor was out of town and had completely forgotten about the service. He was difficult to reach but a couple of hours later dad talked to him. He apologized as well, put us up in a hotel room and gave us a love offering. Also the youth director took us to eat a nice meal. The next day we began discussing the whole situation and figured out that we had it all wrong all of these years. Why go to the trouble of setting up our stuff and singing when churches would pay us NOT to sing!
As anyone who has attended camp meetings can tell you, anything goes sometimes. You never know what to expect. Good things can happen, and sometimes bad. In 1977 we were singing at a meeting in Houston. The church was located in a rough part of town and that week we had some unusual visitors. One young man with shoulder length hair walked in from off the street while preaching was going on, strolled up to the pulpit, stopped in front of the communion table and just stared at the pastor. When the pastor stopped and looked at the young man he said “I want to see Jesus”. I don’t remember if the young man made a decision for Christ or not. One evening at that meeting I will never forget. One guest preacher preached a long, long time. One hour, two hours, two and a half and he was still going. You have to remember that I was 10 years old and sitting on the front row. I remember him preaching against hair spray and blasting a host of fundamental Baptist preachers including John Rice and Jack Hyles. One preacher had driven all the way from southern California to the meeting. He was a big chested man with a powerful voice. As the man behind the pulpit ranted out of control, the California preacher had had enough. He came up with an idea to put a stop to it. He stood up, took his jacket off, began swinging it over his head and hollered “Hallelujah for the Blood!” at the top of his lungs. Then he began to run around the auditorium and on to the stage, all the while yelling “Hallelujah for the Blood!” Well, the volume was so great that it drowned out the preacher. He simply could not be heard above the yelling. So, the ranter looked at the California preacher and said “You take it brother.” Wherein he did and dismissed in prayer!
Invitation to sing—not!:
The Lord has given us many opportunities to sing at fellowship meetings through the years and meet many pastors. At one of these fellowship meetings a pastor whom we had sung for many years earlier gave me his card and asked us to give him a call when we came in his area. A few months later dad began to schedule a tour out to this western state and was having trouble scheduling a Sunday morning so I reminded of this invitation. I had lost the card but told dad who it was. When dad called the pastor he reminded him that he had given me his card and had asked us to come. The pastor was friendly and happy for us to come but did not remember talking to me at the fellowship meeting. Well, the Sunday morning came for us to sing and in walked the pastor to greet us. I leaned over to dad and said “He is not the man I talked to!” Then all of the sudden it hit me that his BROTHER had asked us to come sing and not him! The Lord was in it all and we enjoyed meeting new friends at this wonderful church!
This is Louisiana:
Not too far from our home town, Alexandria, LA. Is a town called Eunice. It is truly a Cajun town. In the early 80’s our family was privileged to sing at LeJeune Memorial Baptist Church pastured by a Creole French speaking pastor named Gabriel Carrier (pronounced Carri-ay) Pastor Carrier had a service in Creole French and a service in English. I’ll never forget sitting in that service and understanding nothing until Pastor Carrier said the word “Drewetts” and then we would walk on to the platform and sing. After church the cooking was fabulous! Sometimes we had to ask what it was we were eating but it was good! An old lady came up let by the hand told us in French how much she enjoyed the singing. We could not understand her of course but her daughter interpreted for us. Louisiana food and culture—can’t beat it!
Back in the 70’s dad had many meeting with Evangelist Carl Hatch. After services one particular evening the pastor took dad and Dr. Hatch to eat. Dr. Hatch has always been known for his exceptional boldness in witnessing. As dad and he entered a restroom talking, they noticed two men occupied it. Dr. Hatch, always looking for a way to witness, changed the subject on dad immediately and said to him in a loud voice “Tommy, I just don’t buy this getting saved stuff, tell me again.” Immediately one of the men left the room, probably sensing a confrontation with Dr. Hatch. The other man tarried a bit while dad and Dr. Hatch talked about salvation. As the man turned to leave Dr. Hatch grabbed him, spun him around and said “What do you think about this getting saved stuff?” Well, it was immediately perceptible to them that this man was STONED DRUNK. The man steeped back and staggered a bit as he said “All I know is once you saved, you’re always saved” and then exited out the restroom door!
Back in the 90’s we were singing in Spokane, WA. The pastor told us to go to a certain house which the church had converted into a prophet’s chamber for guests. Well, we pulled up to the house and dad got out and went right on in to check it out before bringing our stuff in. He came back out a few seconds later red-faced. He told us he had walked through the house checking it out and as he went to a back room a almost stumbled over a man in a wheel chair. The man hollered “What are you doing in here?” It turned out dad had not gone into the missions guest house but into the house next door! Dad scared a poor handicapped man to death! I am very thankful that this young man did not carry a loaded gun with him!
From the mouth of babes:
Back in about 1977 we were singing at Beacon Baptist Church in Nashville,TN. Pastor Terry Samples took our family to eat after church. In the early years of our singing travels dad had set up some rules for ordering food in restaurants. He would tell us kids that we had a $3.00 limit from the menu (you can tell this was a long time ago.) Well, as a 10 year old kid I understood these rules to be “dad’s rules”, so as we all looked at our menus considering what we were going to eat, I looked up at dad and said “Can I get anything I want or are you paying for this?” Pastor Samples has never let dad live that down!
Doors off Hinges:
Back in about 1983 we were scheduled to sing in Veal Switch, TX. The service was to start at 7 PM. Our routine was to get to a church about an hour early to set up our sound equipment. Well, we arrived about 6 PM but could not get inside the church so we just waited for someone to show up. We waited, and waited but no one showed up. Well, time began to run out and we knew we had to be ready to sing so we grabbed a screw driver from our bus, took the hinges off the doors and brought our stuff in and set up. Good thing we did, we barely had enough time before the service started.
Up in Ohio we were to sing one Sunday evening when we were faced with the same problem. I had my faithful pocket knife (with which I had entered many church buildings) so I pulled it out and found a door and we were soon in the church to set up. The only problem was I had set off a very loud outdoor alarm. At first we expected the police to show up, but after 15-20 minutes we decided they weren’t coming so we went ahead and brought all of our stuff in the auditorium and set up to sing while the alarm kep blaring. Soon someone from the church arrived to shut it off. Good security system huh?